BORIS Johnson has been told that improvements to rail links with East Lancashire must go hand in hand with the building of the new HS2 fast line from London to the North.

Political and business leaders have welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement last week that the controversial project would go ahead linking Birmingham and Crewe with the capital, followed by Manchester.

Cllr Phil Riley, deputy leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council and a Transport for the North board member, said associated rail improvements were needed to ensure East Lancashire benefited from the £106billion scheme.

Pendle Liberal Democrat peer Lord Tony Greaves told Transport Minister Baroness Vere the Government should prioritise reopening the Colne-to-Skipton rail link during a Westminster debate on HS2.

Lancashire County Council’s economic development boss Cllr Michael Green and East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce chief executive Miranda Barker both welcomed the announcement as good news for the area.

Cllr Riley said: “I welcome this as far as it goes.

“I am concerned about what happens with HS2 past Manchester in case East Lancashire misses out.

“We need a package of rail measures to go with the project which should include upgrading the East Lancashire Line from Preston eastward, electrifying the full route from Manchester to Blackburn and reopening the Colne-to-Skipton rail link.

“If the HS2 project ends at Manchester there is a danger our area will lose out and cross-Pennine links will concentrate on Manchester to Leeds.”

Lord Greaves told Baroness Vere: “I point out that those of us who live in the corridor between East Lancashire and Skipton in the Aire Valley in Yorkshire are not bothered about having high-speed rail. We want our railway back - the 11 miles between Colne and Skipton. “

Baroness Vere replied: “We have heard you message and we are working on it.”

Ms Barker said: “I am delighted. It’s essential this investment be made and that HS2 connects seamlessly with Northern Powerhouse Rail and the wider rail network to further unlock the economic benefit of our northern business base for the prosperity of the UK as a whole.”

Cllr Green said: “HS2 will undoubtedly bring new opportunities for the whole county.

“By making it easier for people to come to Lancashire and for us to reach other parts of the country, HS2 would bring many opportunities to create new jobs and bring new economic growth to the county.”